What Should You Look for in Your Contract? you should put all your agreements with the client into a written contract. You may want to keep the following information in mind before you sign any contract. Read your contract carefully. Know what specific services and lawn problems are covered and what are not. See if there are extra charges for special services, such as fertilizing, disease control, or reseeding. work is guaranteed? If it is, get the guarantee (or warranty) in writing. Know what the guarantee includes and excludes, and how long it lasts. For example, if you believe a seeding job produced little improvement, will the company come back and reseed for free during the same growing season? Know how long the services will be performed. Must you renew annually or is service scheduled indefinitely? What are the costs of renewal and how much might they increase? Many lawn care service contracts require written notice to cancel. Find out how you can cancel the contract you are considering. If Pesticide Treatment is Offered, What Should You Look For? Lawn care companies often provide pest, disease, and weed control services. This usually means the company will use a pesticide on your lawn. Pesticides are toxic chemicals used to destroy different kinds of lawn pests. For example, insecticides are used to kill bugs; herbicides kill weeds. Lawn care companies generally maintain that the kind and strength of the pesticides they use are safe. Some organizations, however, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have some health and safety concerns. Before you agree to pesticide treatment for your lawn, you may want to consider the following information. Although pesticides can kill unwanted weeds and bugs, the treatment also may destroy the organisms that create a healthy soil for your lawn. Some people feel that a lawn that is overtreated will become dependent on chemicals to thrive. If pesticides are going to be used on your lawn, find out what specific lawn problems are being addressed. Get the name of the pesticide in writing. Ask to see the EPA label and read it carefully before any pesticide is applied to your lawn. Find out about the harmful characteristics of the pesticide, especially to those most vulnerable to its effects: young children, pregnant women, older people, and household pets. Inquire about the availability of less harmful compounds. Inquire carefully about the training of anyone who applies the pesticide to your lawn. Ask what kind of posting will be done to notify people in your neighborhood that pesticides are being applied to your lawn. A number of jurisdictions now require this notice. If your city or county does not require the notice, you still may want to let neighbors know to protect them from any problems that might arise from the pesticide application. Find out what you need to do during the pesticide treatment and for how long. Should you stay indoors, keep your windows closed, bring in your outdoor lawn furniture and children's toys? How long should you stay off treated areas? Make sure pesticides are not applied in windy weather (over 10 miles an hour). This will prevent their spreading to other lawns. Ask for alternatives to pesticide applications. Many companies now offer a more "organic" and less chemical approach to lawn care. Ask about ecological effects, including danger to non-target species and the possibility of groundwater contamination. What Are Alternatives to Pesticide Controls? Good-looking lawns may take a year or more of care to get that way. Although you may choose to use chemical applications to quickly improve the appearance of your lawn, you also may want to consider longer-term approaches to lawn care that do not include pesticides. One such approach is called "integrated pest management." Basically, this involves planting several kinds of disease resistant grasses, properly conditioning your soil, and using new low-toxicity pest control materials.